I use multi-sensory motivation without resorting to crafty activities.
The smelliest lesson that I have ever taught used seven baby pigs
running around and pooping (on a paper covered area) with the
students in a circle around them to fence them in. The lesson was
great, but I did it only once. If you want to teach this lesson, you
have my permission, but I need a copy of the video (you can keep the
multi-sensory parts). I have often used rabbits. They are less
multi-sensory, but they are also excellent motivation for any age.
For sweeter smells, I like to bring in healthy foods such as citrus,
apples, table grapes, carrots, radishes, purple onions, egg plant,
squash, potatoes, etc. Sometimes I bring flowers and herbs from my
garden. They have odor, and many are safe to taste. I avoid toxic
plants. Before their drawing practice, the children feel them, taste
them, and smell them. They arrange them according to my still life
Then they draw them (partially eaten or at least tasted) using a
blinder on their pencils for practice. After practicing the outline
slowly using blind contour lines (which seldom meet correctly), they
can do another drawing looking carefully at both object as well an
occasional peek at the paper to improve the shape - or they are
allowed to use an eraser to make a few corrections so the blind
contour observed lines are brought together better. I tell children
that this is called, LEARNING HOW TO LEARN HOW TO LEARN TO DRAW
because it trains our eye/brain/hand skills of observation/drawing.
I think every child has the right to know that drawing can be
learned. Too many think it is a natural talent that only other
Healthy foods are also good for small stippled drawings using fine
colored felt tips. I require that more than one color be included in
every part of the stippling.
With directional lighting (window only light), foods are good for the
study of shading, shadows, and highlights. Students must first look
for and point out shadows, highlights, and various tones.
Healthy foods are good for overlapping and size relationships to show
depth. Children themselves are asked to arrange the food so it is
partly hidden behind other food.
Secondary colored foods are good for color mixing studies.
I like to have them start with a lightly drawn pencil plan. They
then add shading, hatching, texture, and/or color with other media
such as ball point, marker, watercolor, etc. without going over any
of their pencil planning lines. Then I ask them to erase all pencil
planning and outline markings so they can learn that the pure tonal
and color work does not depend on outlines. Each new process is
learned with a little hands-on preliminary practice - no examples or
demos. They come up with a wonderful assortment of techniques and
learn from each other that there are many ways of doing things in art.
Feeling, tasting, and smelling definitely improves motivation,
ability to focus, ability to learn, and students remember the lesson
better. Noticeably better results in the work are often seen. At
the end of the day I take the remaining food, wash it, cook with it,
and eat it. It is both multi-sensory and multi-nutritional.
I do NOT like to use food as art material in crafty projects. I DO
like to see food used as the subject matter in art. We all have an
instinct to desire food to live. Art should deal with things we love
and need. Art should be about our common everyday life experiences.
Few things are more common than eating. I question why teachers who
are artists themselves would ever want to teach crafty projects when
they could be teaching basic art skills and knowledge while getting
impressive products at the same time.
I do not like to teach children to waste good food products by using
it to make art or to make decorative bric-a-brack objects of
questionable learning value. I like to teach mosaic and gadget
printing with things like paper, cardboard, scrap building materials,
plastics, foam materials, and things found in nature other than food.
I do not pasta, grain, or beans as art materials. I might use them
as subject matter.
For a different way to use sounds to motivate for art, I invented an
activity for texture practice. I prepare some small containers
(boxes, jars, film canisters) that have various materials in them
(tacks, nails, marbles, sand, gravel, etc.). These make different
noises when I turn or shake them (keeping them hidden from view). I
ask children to make small squares on their paper. While they listen
to one hidden sound, they are asked to create the visual texture of
that sound. Each sound box or jar makes a noticeably different
sound, so that students have have a felt need to change the texture
rendition in each practice square. This is followed by a lesson
experience in which texture becomes a significant element.
It is easy to Google masterworks that relate to each of the above
concepts. I NEVER show these or any other examples before the
children work. They can learn how art is made to materialize and
express their own experiences, observations, and imaginations (if
good motivation is used) without the crutches of external examples
and copy work.
When I show a masterwork for discussion, my questions can reference
their own artwork experiences and multi-sensory experiences. They
connect the masterwork to their own lives and experiences. They are
not looking at it in order to see how to replicate it. They are
looking at the masterwork to figure out how the artist was motivated,
how the artist felt, how the artist was thinking, and what the artist
may have wanted us to get from it. Learning by imitation is a
powerful human instinct, but human imagination is what makes us
unique among all creatures. While imitation may be useful in many
subjects, art is one place where we can foster the higher levels of
thinking, skills, and learning.